The Houseboat Design Contest

November 30, 2015

Avatar The Off Center Crew

NOTE: The Contest is Open to Everyone (Members and Visitors Can Submit Entries)
From the earliest days at, one of the ideas that brought us together was the dream of an Off Center Boathouse — a place with small boats tied up all around where kids (and adults) could learn about building, rowing and sailing them.

We also dream of houseboats, shantyboats and shackfloats — personal respites away from the frantic world, where we might live a simpler life afloat upon the natural world of the sea.

It’s time to take all this day-dreaming to the next step and actually put pencil to paper — the Houseboat Design Contest by has arrived!

If you’ve been dreaming of building your own floating camp, home, or community boating center, now’s the time to get your design down on paper and submit it to OCH’s Houseboat Design Contest.


The contest is open to everyone, not just OCH members, and you can submit a design for either: a) your own houseboat, with your own criteria for your own location, or b) a design for a floating community boathouse inspired by the “Off Center Boathouse” concept that’s represented by our logo and our mission statement which can be found by clicking here.

As designs are entered, we’ll post as many of them as possible on the site so we can all exchange ideas and suggestions about them. Hopefully, this will allow us build upon each other’s ideas, to learn from one another, and the dialogue will help make all the designs better.


All entries are due no later than midnight February 14, 2016 (Valentine’s Day). We’ll start posting them shortly thereafter for discussion and debate. For us northerners, that’ll seem like a warm crackling fire to help carry us through the cold winter ahead. Awards will be announced on March 26, 2016.


Submissions can be emailed to houseboats(at)OffCenterHarbor(dot)com. By attaching them to your email, you can include sketches/drawings, text, PDF’s — and whatever else you want to submit. If you have large audio/video files, simply let us know in your email and we’ll send you a dropbox link where you can upload those large media files.

Remember, you can submit a design for either:

  • Your own personal houseboat, in your location, with your own criteria, or
  • A floating community boathouse design


  • Simplicity reigns (especially with construction, systems and environmental footprint).
  • Construction provides low maintenance and low probability of failures such as breaking up and sinking.
  • High fun-to-cost ratio is paramount, both during and after construction.
  • Designs should produce stable, seaworthy structures capable of sustaining the stresses local conditions, moving, hauling-out, etc.


Caution: Since this is an “Off Center” contest, the judging will be highly creative. While there will be prizes awarded, this is not only about the destination (prizes), it’s also about the journey (laughter and learning).

We prefer designs that match thoughtful criteria established by the entrant. A houseboat that’s perfect for Lake Austin in Texas might be awful for a tidal fiord in Norway. In a good design, the designer will know exactly why he or she wants it and how it will be used—and the design should be well-matched to those criteria.


1. Your Statement of How, Where and Why
This is where good designs start — a deeply honest and complete assessment of: a) HOW it will be used, b) WHERE it will be located (and moved between), and most importantly, c) WHY you want it to do these things. Your writeup of how, where, and why will be an important element in the judging.

2. Drawings, Specs & Requirements that match your Statement of How, Where and Why
Provide sketches or measured drawings along with dimensions and material lists that explain your design. For example: If you say that you want to tow it on a trailer from Ohio to Maine in the summers, then your design will have a maximum weight that your vehicle can handle, plus it will have a maximum beam/width imposed by state or federal highway laws.

For those interested in submitting a design for the OCH-style community boathouse, you can CLICK HERE to read our sketch outline about the Off Center Boathouse and from it create your Statement of How, Where and Why and the drawings that go with it.

Note: The term “houseboat” is flexible and includes shantyboat, shackfloat and boathouse. We’re not going to get hung up on any one definition, but for this contest the structures must float independently on it’s own floating structure.

3. Images of Houseboats or Small Houses that Inspired Your Design
This is where you can upload any images that have given you inspiration or ideas.


When the dust has settled and the judging is complete, we’ll be awarding three cash prizes of $500 each for:

  • Best community-oriented houseboat to be used for teaching, learning and fun ($500)
  • Best personal houseboat to be used for a personal or family life afloat ($500)
  • Best “out of this world” entry (we’re leaving this open for things we haven’t thought of)

We’ll be giving out surprise awards as well that honor such topics as ingenuity, innovation, ease of build, best float (floating support for house), best self-propulsion & steering, best over-the-road unit (note: designs do not necessarily need to include all features such as self-propulsion or over-the-road abilities).

A special award will be given to OCH members who offer the most helpful suggestions to others’ designs via comments on the designs online.

OCH crew, Guides and founders (and their family members) can submit their own designs, but they are not eligible for awards.

Good luck, and remember…

“Simplicity afloat is the surest guarantee of happiness.”
L. Francis Herreshoff

Warm Regards,
The Off Center Crew


16 Responses So Far to “The Houseboat Design Contest”:

  1. Avatar William Singletary says:

    I just joined. There is so much fantastic stuff on your site I will be up all nite scanning it. I have been a life long boater (77 years now) mostly sailing, but I am getting interested in a small trailerable houseboat. I built custom homes and think I can construct an 8X22 ft house boat. I will be visiting all of your sites and viewing the videios. Thanks so much for the time and effort you have put into this. I am sure I will enjoy it and get lots of useful information.
    Thanks again….Bill Singletary

  2. Avatar Lee Young says:

    I have been workin’ on my entry, but I can’t find any email address to send it to here on this site. Am I lookin’ in the wrong places? Anyway the Huckleberry Houseboat is on the way!

    Capt’n Nat

  3. Avatar Leif Knutsen says:

    I believe a House boat should first be a boat and then a home. To that end if I were to enter I would just have entered RAVEN. Now in the very capable and loving hands of Karen Sullivan and Jim Huemann

  4. Avatar John D Fuller says:

    My 27 foot sloop has be on the hard in my driveway since 1995. Does it qualify as a houseboat now? You have an excellent and interesting site. Keep it going as long as you can.

  5. Avatar Jerry Kirschenbaum says:

    Of course the ultimate Houseboat Movie (no, not Sleepless in Seattle) is THE HORSE’S MOUTH werein Alec Guiness plays Gully Jimson, an eccentric mural painter of urban (read side of building walls) and his strange behaviors. Lives on a houseboat/barge in downtown London (Thames). Great final scene is where he has had it with the city, casts off his motorless home and just drifts out under Tower Bridge to the estuary and BEYOND.

    By the way…if any of you reach Bucks Harbor (Brooksville, Maine) check out Chris Bates houseboat which recently had its second expansion by adding a porch to moor his lobsterboat. (Presently beached on lee side of Harbor Island for the winter.

  6. Avatar steve congdon says:

    How about we build on a pontoon boat base

    • Avatar Theodore Casellini says:

      My thinking, exactly! All you need is a ramp that will hold a travel trailer/motor home, and you can park it on the ramp. I would also include some “slide-outs” for decking around the ramp.

  7. Avatar Ray Vosper says:

    Can’t wait to get started. With so many cool shantyboats already out there, this will be fun to try to improve on the type.

  8. Avatar Alfred Jensen says:

    Great idea, an interactive project!!!!!!!!, Congrats to OCH, glad I joined1

  9. Avatar Skip Kemp says:

    I’m interested to see all entries or at least more than the winning entries. Will we be able to see multiple designs and entries?

  10. Avatar John Hooge says:

    I assume the Jan. 31, 2015 deadline was a typo and Jan. 31, 2016 is the intended deadline?

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